Growing Pains

Pete did not mind that the October flurries seemed to be funneled straight into the bare breeze blocks of his garage, turning the cold, grey space even chillier. And besides, the rust-brown fleece he wore was good for Arctic conditions, or so the sales assistant had assured. He was enjoying working with this delicate piece of beech. It would make a good sideboard, when he was done.

His hobby gave him respite from his sons and, if truth be told, from his wife. He found his garage a therapeutic space for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Today, however, his peace would be interrupted when elder son Zander, adorned in his new, blue Spiderman sweatshirt, appeared in the open doorway. Seeing the boy’s lips move, Pete shut down the lathe and the din subsided.  

“Hello, son, have you come out to help? Did you bring some coffee and biscuits?”, inquired Pete, dusting shavings from the new fleece. Zander’s response, however, was unexpected.

“Dad?” He spoke slowly, nervously fidgeting with his hands. “Can you take me Trick or Treating this year?”

Pete took a deep breath, carefully placed his chisel on the workbench and retired to his stool. Patting his knee, he beckoned for Zander to jump on. Their heads were now level.

“Ooof!”, feigned Pete, “you’re getting much too big for this.”. He paused, thinking how he should discuss this with the six-year-old. While it was true that children faced far greater risks these days, risks of being out in the dark, of approaching strangers’ houses, these were not the main factors for Pete’s reluctance.

Pete couldn’t help thinking, maybe he was just out of step with the whole idea of Trick or Treat?

In his own lifetime, he had seen the night grow from games of Duck Apple and Bob Apple (leading him to conclude that apples were the dullest fruit ever invented), to a candy frenzy, fueled by American sugar. As a youth, he had carved out many a turnip lantern, but these days, children did not even know what a turnip was, preferring instead the larger pumpkin, another import from the USA.

Even the name. Pete was not religious but even he understood the that the All Hallows’ festival, geared specifically to remembering the dead, predated even the Christian calendar, and had, over the centuries, been assimilated into Hallowe’en. But, where had Trick or Treat come in?

So maybe he just did not get Trick or Treat?

He tried the obvious parries: “it’ll be cold / wet / dark”, but Zander remained on Pete’s knee, undeterred. “All my friends are doing it.” In a final, exasperated motion, Pete turned to his son. “What do you think Trick or Treat really means?”

“I just want to collect some candy.”  

“So are you going to ask a stranger to give you some treat, or else you will play a trick on them? That’s not very nice, Zander, is it? If these people refuse your treat, what tricks do you intend playing on them?”

It was Zander’s turn to pause. As his face contorted, pondering the question, Pete could not help but recognise his own features.

“So, do you see, Zander? I don’t think you should approach people, saying that you’ll do nasty things to them. I want you to grow up to be nice to other people. So, that’s why I don’t want you playing Trick or Treat.”

Seeing the look of disappointment in the child’s eyes, he added, “I tell you what. How about when we go shopping this week, we get extra chocolate, just to make up for it?” Thinking as he spoke, Pete developed his idea. “In fact, I know. Why don’t we buy some marshmallows, and we can drink cups of hot chocolate? All of us? We could make that our tradition?”

For now, the thought of marshmallows placated the boy, and he slipped from dad’s thigh and bounded around the garage.

But Pete had a funny feeling that he might be having this same discussion again next year.


  1. I’m sure the whole Halloween thing is a fairly recent phenomenon. We had mischief night as kids, (although we never actually got up to any), but I certainly don’t remember trick or treating. 😒

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My brother sister and I looked forward to Halloween in those days we went out by ourselves my sister and I were Charlie’s Angels and my brother was Spider-Man and I agree with Zander we were in it for the treats! 👍😁

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I was a kid Halloween wasn’t a thing at all in Australia. Pumpkins aren’t even in season. It’s spring. And frankly I have no idea what it’s all about. But it’s all over the shops here now (costumes, plastic jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, etc) and lots of kids go trick or treating. I am so uncomfortable with it – both them coming to our house (we don’t keep sweets in the house and I”m not buying them for one night I don’t have any part in) and the thought of our kids doing it.

    Liked by 2 people

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